At the front end of my last deployment I found myself in a cluttered compound on the Fallujah Peninsula known as Combat Outpost (or “COP”) Black. Walled off with Hesco barriers filled with dirt and rocks and lined with concertina wire, it sat near the junction of a couple of the main thoroughfares leading into the city. The nearby entry control point was usually a congested hub during the morning and afternoon rush hours, reminding me of the I-405 interchange back home in L.A. The place was small; what little open space we had was devoted to a parking area for our Humvees, MRAPs and 7-ton trucks. It was covered with rocks to tamp down the dust, so it was a joy to stumble across while walking any faster than 1 mph.
Things had mellowed considerably by ’08, with not a shot being fired in anger by the unit we were replacing in our area. So while the op tempo was still steady, the threat had been reduced to a steady simmer (that has since boiled over the past few years).
This tiny playpen wasn’t ideal for a guy who likes to run (or in my case, jog … since you can’t eat pizza while running at full speed). COP Black had a shed that housed some free weights, kettlebells and benches, but cardio consisted of plodding foot patrols (“Race ya to chow!”) and running to the bathroom (let’s just say the drug Cipro became a great friend anytime after you ate at a “goat pull” in a sheikh’s house).
After a little while, I discovered a walled-off area where I could run in place. Picture me in my tight green shorts with earphones on, high-stepping for 10 … 20 … 30 minutes. I’m a maniac, manic on the floor.
Groggy Marines stumbling from their hooch to the piss tubes would peer over the wall and just shake their heads. “Leonard talks to his rifle … and the XO thinks he’s Jennifer Beals from ‘Flashdance.’ Equally weird.”
Truman was amused, too, making this week’s Hump Day Song an easy choice. (Don’t confuse this with 10,000 Maniacs – this ain’t a Lilith Fair concert).